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Helen Hall

Associate Director for Program Management, Universities Space Research Association (USRA), USA
Country of birth: USA

Educational background: BSME Thermo mechanical and Energy Conversion, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

Helen HallWho or what inspired you to work in science/engineering?
During my Freshman year in college, I wanted to be a teacher. I took calculus for fun and got straight A's. A classmate said I should switch to engineering, so I did.

What are the primary responsibilities of your current job?
As Line Manager, I'm responsible for leading USRA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) effort at NASA Ames Research Center. SOFIA is a premier observatory for infrared and submillimeter astronomy. A 747-SP aircraft, flying at an altitude up to 45,000 feet, will carry a 2.5-meter telescope designed to make sensitive infrared measurements on a variety of astronomical objects. I'm also responsible for program management of the remaining contract value of approximately US $200 million. I direct the team that manages SOFIA science and mission operations; science instrument development, systems engineering and integration of the science instruments with the telescope,  mirror coating and maintenance operations, mission communication and control, scientific data processing and archiving, and education and public outreach.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?
When I first started as an engineer in 1984, there were very few women. I had to work harder to earn respect. I was told in 1989 that women were bad luck to workers underground. I still get phone calls today from the underground miners finding out how I am doing.